A pilot scheme in which family court advisors from Cafcass became involved in care proceedings before they reached court proceeding cut both the number of cases eventually going on to court, as well as the overall length of the cases.
The scheme, which ran in Warwickshire and Coventry for two years, increased the percentage of cases which bypassed court from 25 to 40 per cent, and also cut the average length of care proceedings to 36.6 weeks. The average length stood at 70 weeks before the pilot began, but a number of other initiatives running in parallel to the pilot also contributed to this dramatic drop in the length of care proceedings. The average of duration of care cases which did not involve Cafcass family court advisors reached 42.6 weeks.
The advisors encouraged the use of ‘kinship care’ arrangements – in which relatives, typically grandparents or non-resident fathers – took on responsibility for the children, as well as support work with parents caught up in care cases.
A report setting out the results of the two pilot schemes claimed:
‘There is no doubt that the direction of travel set in train by the Family Justice Review and now the Children and Families Bill, is not readily reversible. This shifts the burden of parenting and child assessment to the administrative space of pre-court social work.’
A third pilot scheme is still underway in Liverpool.
Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) works to protect the interests of children involved in care cases and acrimonious separations, providing information, advice and support.